MILTON: With suitors coming, Ticats face decision on Orlondo Steinauer’s future with the club

Hunting season, CFL-coaching version, has begun and Orlondo Steinauer is clearly among the preferred prey.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats like him, too, and it’s obvious that a large and vocal segment of their fans really do.

The Ticats’ current assistant head coach, and former player and defensive co-ordinator, is squarely in the sights of the Toronto Argonauts and likely also the B.C. Lions — the only CFL teams with head coaching vacancies — to interview for their lead job.

But, it says here, despite a passel of impactful and sometimes contradictory concepts, Steinauer’s place has to be in Hamilton. Long-term. Just 45 years old, he’s a keeper: experienced with enormous new-age upside and he could be a constant thread in football operations here for the next decade.

If it’s possible, the Ticats have to find a way to retain him, and that might require something uncommonly creative. If it’s not possible, make it possible.

You don’t want to have to choose between June Jones, who has significantly coached up many key players and shifted the mood metre clearly to the positive, and the still-rising promise of Steinauer. But that’s where the Ticats may find themselves. And soon.

Any team wanting to speak to a coach under contract had to wait until 48 hours after the Grey Cup to contact his current team. Ticat CEO Scott Mitchell said that as of Wednesday no one had contacted him about Steinauer.

“But I’d be surprised if I didn’t hear something soon,” he acknowledged.

If a coach under contract wants to accept a position with a new team, it must be a promotion and the new team must make financial compensation to his current team.

When Steinauer returned to the Ticats nine months ago, leaving a good position at Fresno State with indications of even brighter things to come, he spoke of complementing his impressive defensive resume with offence learned under Jones.

But you can assume there were also private talks about him taking over the program when Jones’ three-year deal expires in 2020. Succession plans are a key part of most of the best organizations — Calgary is Exhibit A — and this looked like that kind of plan.

But as mentioned here before, all timing changed when the Argos fired Marc Trestman less than a year removed from his Grey Cup victory, which neither the Ticats nor Steinauer could have anticipated last off-season. The Argo upheaval pushed the metronome to “really fast.”

Steinauer, who was unavailable for comment, has spent more combined time as a player and coach with the Argos than the Ticats and he could switch teams without switching homes. But Hamilton is where Steinauer won his first two Grey Cups as a player and where he was hired for his only full pro seasons as a defensive co-ordinator, before he went to Fresno for its turnaround 2017 season.

Mitchell told The Spectator on that “June Jones is returning” but did not want to comment any further on anything to do with Steinauer or the rest of coaching staff.

Jones says he wants and plans to be back and on locker-cleanout day added, “I think everybody wants to come back. Orlondo and I have had a conversation about his situation. Any time a guy has an opportunity, I’m happy for them.”

While Steinauer is in the catbird seat, there are also fewer head coaching vacancies than had been anticipated only a few weeks ago, with Montreal and Edmonton confirming there would be no changes there. A few others, such as Winnipeg offensive co-ordinator Paul LaPolice and Calgary defensive co-ordinator DeVone Claybrooks, are also prime head-coaching candidates, so the Argos and Lions do have credible options.

There’s been lots of cyber-theory about Steinauer taking over the Ticats earlier, with Jones running the offence. But no one in the organization has come remotely close to discussing that suggestion, on or off the record.

Another potentially impacting issue is the $2.738-million salary cap on a team’s football operations to be imposed for the 2019 season, which also sets coaching limits at 11 and other football-related personnel at 17. Hamilton employed 12 coaches last year, so already have to pare staff. And if Steinauer is offered a big raise by the Lions or Argos, would there be wiggle room to match it, should that be what’s required?

The league will send out more complete details on the cap structure later this week.

There’s a lot of stuff to sort out in a hurry and for the Ticats, not much of it will be easy.

Steve Milton

Steve Milton

Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.
Steve Milton
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Steve Milton
About Steve Milton (244 Articles)
Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.